Swiss cooperation in Tunisia: assisting in the country’s transition to democracy, economic development and management of migration

Article, 24.11.2015

The SDC is taking part in the North Africa programme 2011-2016 which Switzerland is implementing in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Libya since the revolutions in 2011. One of the SDC’s main aims is to improve future prospects for young Tunisians in their country.

The bakery’s manager displays loaves of bread straight out of the oven.
Thanks to microcredit, the Essanefa bakery was able to open in Kasserine in June 2013, providing work to three people. © SDC

In Tunisia, the SDC is active in three specific areas as defined in Switzerland’s North Africa programme 2011-2016: transition to democracy, economic development and migration. The programme is being carried out jointly with the Human Security Division of the FDFA, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). More specifically, The SDC is providing job prospects for the people, in addition to supporting the current process of democratisation.

Switzerland has substantially boosted its activities in Tunisia since the revolution in 2011. It will have invested CHF 126 million in various projects in the country by 2018. The different actors of Swiss cooperation are working closely with numerous civil society organisations and with the private sector, as well as with the country’s authorities.

Support for the transition to democracy and respect for human rights

The recent awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to four Tunisian civil society organisations was no coincidence. Such networks in Tunisia are very active despite acts of violence that have shaken the country. The SDC contributes substantially to it. Since 2011, it has helped many civil society organisations to strengthen their capacities and to fund specific projects. The projects supported by the SDC are required to promote gender equality and be aimed specifically at helping the most disadvantaged regions in the country.

The SDC has also provided financial support to the elections that have been held in the country – contributing in particular to the holding of credible and transparent elections in 2014 – and has supported the professionalisation of several regional radio stations of Tunisian national radio as part of the effort to establish a free and high quality media.

Project: Forging democracy through regional radio

Article: “The media sector is seeking its own revolution”

Economic development, job creation and vocational and professional training

Unemployment among young people is still a major problem in Tunisia. It is threatening social cohesion and the process of transition to democracy. Some economic sectors are not offering enough jobs, and young qualified people often do not have the qualifications required by employers. The SDC is responding to this problem through a project to strengthen vocational and professional training in Tunisia and internships for young university graduates in "practice firms".

A parallel programme has created more than 10,000 jobs for young people in four disadvantaged governorates in Tunisia through providing access to micro-credits to individuals wishing set up promising projects. As a sign of confidence in the Switzerland cooperation effort, in 2015, the Tunisian parliament voted to contribute CHF 30 million to a fund supported by Switzerland to encourage entrepreneurship among young people.

For its part, SECO is providing concrete support to various production and export sectors (regional products, textiles) as well as to several SMEs in the country.

Project: Vocational and professional training in Tunisia – Objective: employment

Project: More than 10,000 job created in postrevolutionary Tunisia

Management of migratory movements

Migration in Tunisia has two aspects. One is the thousands of Tunisians who tried to reach Europe in the wake of the revolution in 2011, a phenomenon which has since significantly diminished. In addition to the effort of jobs’ creation supported by the SDC and SECO, a project to assist voluntary return and re-integration of Tunisian migrants, funded by the SEM, has created more than 900 jobs in Tunisia. The SDC is working in parallel with Tunisians living in Switzerland to organise short missions in their country of origin to transfer skills and to launch development projects.

The other aspect is the continual arrival on its territory of refugees and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa who are also hoping to reach Europe. The SDC, among other organisations, is supporting the Tunisian Red Crescent and the UNHCR in accompanying these people. More than 350 migrants blocked in Tunisia were helped to return to their country of origin. Along the coast, the SDC has helped to provide humanitarian aid to 1,026 migrants rescued in mid-ocean while heading towards Italy in 2015. These people have been lodged, fed and provided with medical assistance as needed.